A candle-lit vigil was held Dec. 12 outside Pulse, the Orlando-based LGBT nightclub where 49 were killed and 53 more injured six months ago in one of the largest mass shootings in American history.
Outside the doors of the now-closed club, mourners put up a list of names of all the dead, and at 2:02 a.m., the time on June 12 that shooter Omar Mateen began firing shots in the club, attendees held a moment of silence before reading out the names of all the victims of the shooting, according to Fox News.
The vigil was reserved for family and friends, closed off to the public and to media, according to Fox News.
“Time really does fly,” said Orlando Torres, a former Pulse patron, to reporters. Torres was at the nightclub when the shooting occurred, and hid in the bathroom to avoid Mateen’s bullets.
“It was very somber and very touching.”
“It’s very difficult to be this close to a scenery that’s normally full of life and joy and happiness and for it to now be a scene of sorrow and pain and grief, but definitely a lot of love, it’s definitely hard,” said former patron Charlotte Davis to reporters.
“I’m proud of the Orlando community for coming together,” said Jim McDermott, who attended the event in memory of Chris Brodman, who survived the shooting but died suddenly three months later of an unrelated rare condition, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“We’re all one community and one family and we need more love in this world and that’s why we’re here.”
A second vigil for the public was held Monday evening at Pulse, called “Remembering our Angels”, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Many organizations, including the city government, have put together a number of remembrance events throughout Orlando for the six-month anniversary of the shooting, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The city has also partnered with the Orlando police department to launch a safe space program that allows businesses to put up a sign identifying themselves as safe places for members of the LGBTQ to report crimes.
“We’re getting to the first milestone and we think it’s time to start the process of putting out some of the memories to reflect on the tragedy,” Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“We will never forget those who we lost. We also never want to forget the way the community came together with a sense of unity.”
The wider community of Orlando felt the impact of the shooting, said Wanda Cancel, an Orlando-based mental health counselor who worked with victims and families after the tragedy, according to USA Today. “A lot of people could not forget what happened,” she said.
“And, as a community, it’s vitally important we don’t forget.”
Michael Cheatham, a trauma surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center, said many of the doctors and nurses that treated the injured the night of the shooting have been traumatized by the event. “You can never, ever be prepared for what we saw that night,” he said. “It’s a little difficult for us to put it behind us.” Cheatham added that many staffers, including himself, are still attending regular counseling sessions as a result of working on the victims, according to USA Today.
Cheatham said his hospital has been involved in regularly educating other hospitals on preparing for similar disasters ever since the shooting. “We’re pretty much reliving that morning on a weekly basis,” he said.
“But for many hospitals, this was a wake-up call. They needed to plan better.”
The future of the now-closed nightclub is uncertain, but owner Barbara Poma said she is interested in creating a “sanctuary of hope” with the space in which visitors can reflect on the shooting. According to Fox News, Poma has abandoned plans to sell the property to the city, which had planned to turn it into a memorial.
[Featured Image By Gerardo Mora/Getty Images]